Valentine’s Day honors the Christian martyr St. Valentine, as well as the Roman goddess of marriage, Juno. Together these two famous love figures have shown us mere mortals all about the ways of love. St. Valentine’s feast day, Feb. 14, is highlighted with the gifting of flowers, sharing symbols of love and sending romantic cards to loved ones.
While St. Valentine presented the flowers from his garden to young lovers in an effort to promote the Catholic sacrament of matrimony, his February holiday has sparked gifts old and new. Here are some antique gifts that will warm up your Valentine’s day.
• Valentine cards. These small tokens are exchanged between childhood friends and star-crossed lovers alike. Examples from the early 1900s come in the form of postcards and are worth $5 to $10. Vintage examples from the World War II era range in value from $10 to $20, depending on condition, market, artist and sentimental message.
• Love seats and settees. While the Victorians introduced us to the rules and regulations of courting one’s lover, they also made seating furniture very cozy. The widespread use of settees and love seats for two was a Victorian staple in the world of antique furniture. Eastlake furniture, named for British designer Charles Eastlake, was known for comfortable tufted seats and backs on love seats. It is also known for intertwined courting seats in walnut and upholstery fabric, featuring two chairs fused together with a bar in between the two seated lovers .
• Courting lamps. The Victorians gave us another restriction on courtship in the form of the courting lamp. The courting lamp had graduated markings on the glass to indicate minutes. The marks showed the amount of time left before the fuel source expired and your lover must be on his way home. Today, these rare Valentine’s keepsakes are worth $50 to $150.
• Candy. Russell Stover, Godiva and Whitman candy in their characteristic embossed cardboard or lithographed tin boxes on a living room coffee table spoke volumes about this popular winter holiday.
Once these delicious chocolates were devoured, the candy boxes were saved through the years. Today, candy boxes in the shape of hearts command $3 each at antique shops.
• Candy containers. Glass candy containers from the early 1900s came in all shapes and sizes. They are found in the form of animals, people, toys and even historic buildings like the Philadelphia City Hall, the U.S. Capitol and the White House. They are widely collected and range in value from $50 to $250.
• Chocolate molds. Chocolate molds are very popular, particularly on the day when an abundance of chocolate is consumed. Wooden and cast metal chocolate molds, which date back to the late 19th century, are the most sought-after examples for collectors. But be aware that love isn’t cheap and these chocolate molds are expensive, with values from $500 to $2,000 for the finest examples.
• Vintage couture. If you are going out on the town with your honey, then you’ve got to look good.
Winter hats from that bygone night on the town in celebration of Valentine’s Day are all the rage. Look in thrift shops for period hats of faux fur and leather gloves with fanciful detailing. You will have to save your pennies to buy some of these name-brand pieces ranging in value from $250 to $400 each.
• Jewelry. There is nothing quite like getting a piece of fine jewelry from your sweetheart, featuring gemstones and gold, silver or platinum. Costume jewelry is another popular Valentine’s gift by designers Weiss, Trifari, Coro, Monet, Maravella Renoir, etc.
The pieces are well made, with low-quality yet durable stones and high-end period designs.
A Valentine card or diamond bracelet are both fine ways to say “I love you.”
Dr. Lori Verderame is an author and antiques appraiser on History channel. With a Ph.D. from Penn State University and vast experience appraising art, antiques and artifacts worldwide for museums and collectors, Verderame is the director of DrLoriV.com, a resource for identifying art and artifacts. Visit Facebook.com/DoctorLori, or call 888-431-1010.